Casinos must take back seat to Boracay’s more pressing problems, group says
ILOILO CITY—A group of Boracay residents and business owners has urged the government to focus on addressing perennial problems on the resort island instead of establishing casinos.
In a position paper, Natives of Boracay and Business Stakeholders Inc. (Nabbsi) said it was “extremely dismayed and disappointed” over President Duterte’s decision to allow the resumption of casino operations on the island.
It pointed out that the President had opposed the operation of casinos on the island when it was closed to tourists from April 26 to Oct. 25, 2018, to undergo rehabilitation.
Nabbsi said the putting up of casinos was contrary to the rehabilitation of the island and would only put additional stress on the carrying capacity of Boracay.
During the island’s six-month closure in 2018, government agencies pegged the carrying capacity of the island at 19,215 tourists at any given time with daily tourist arrivals averaging 6,405.
Boracay, the group said, remains overdeveloped with rehabilitation efforts still to be completed.
“[The] introduction of additional developments at this stage will add further pressure on the carrying capacity [of the island],” it said in the position paper that it submitted to the municipal council of Malay, Aklan.
The group said the government should address the major concerns of the island, among these overcrowding, solid waste management, sewerage, and stable electricity and water supply.
“We strongly believe that the issues need to be dealt with before allowing more developments to sprout [on] the island,” it said.
Malay Councilor Nenette Aguirre-Graf, chair of the council’s tourism committee, said most business owners and residents were against casinos.
“This is not what we need. We urgently need more COVID-19 vaccines so that we can open up businesses again and maintain and provide more jobs again. Local business owners also need assistance to recover, not casinos,” she told the Inquirer in a telephone interview.
But Boracay Newcoast, a mixed-use leisure and resort development of giant property developer Megaworld Corp. where a casino project is expected to be implemented, said it would “faithfully comply with the government’s environmental policies and standards.”
“Boracay Newcoast remains committed to the protection of the environment on the island. Around 60 percent of the entire 150-hectare estate is dedicated to green and open spaces. Since we started the development around 10 years ago, we have been proactively implementing green initiatives and programs,” it said in a statement.
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